The Online Darkroom Store

Tuesday, June 23

A few interesting finds

Sometime last year I won an old camera at a local auction and the lot included a plastic box containing what appeared to be lots of empty film boxes from the last 50 years or so. I had a quick look at a few of them but I could tell from the weight that they had nothing inside them.

In the process of cleaning up my darkroom yesterday, I was about to tip the contents into a rubbish bag when I thought I should have a closer look. One or two old items were in there that made me glad I did.

There was nothing of any worth but a few things of some historical value. These Ilford metal film containers - three in total - date from 1956 according to their expiry dates. What a beautiful way to package some film.

Even older were these two Ferrania containers with dates of 1954 on their underside, again a nice bit of nostalgia. Wouldn't it be great if the resurrected Ferrania chose to offer their new colour films in metal containers. I suppose economics might rule that out but it's a nice thought.

Now, what about this old Kodak cassette? It once housed some Plus X but there's no date on it at all. Could it be older than the Ilford and Ferrania containers or about the same age? It was heavy enough that I went into the darkroom just to make sure there wasn't a film inside. Sadly, no.

Before the plastic age, companies had no alternative other than to make the most of the materials available which is why we have these wee gems from the past but nothing to compare from the present.

Tucked away at the bottom of the box of boxes was another interesting find, something that you don't see every day. It's a Sigell Instant Developer tank designed to make it possible to process a film without removing it from the cassette.

It looks straightforward enough but, like all these devices, I'd imagine it would only have a chance of working well with a 24-exposure roll where there's a little more room for the chemicals to circulate. Legend has it that these were sometimes used by Press men in a hurry when just getting something - anything - to wire back to the office was what mattered. Today's digital Press photographers don't know they've got it made.

As an aside, I once had to write the retiral piece for one of the photographers on the paper for which I worked. He'd started off in the 1950s with an MPP 5x4 machine which fitted, with its dark slides and accessories, into a leather case that weighed (from memory) something like 30 lbs in total. Almost 50 years later, the bag he was carrying around just before he retired was filled with Canon Eos digital gear and weighed exactly the same as his original kit!

Of course, he could do a lot more with the digital equipment but his back didn't benefit much from this increased capability. The lightest gear, he said, was in the mid-1960s when a Rolleiflex and a Nikon SLR with a couple of lenses was all he had to carry on assignments.

But back to the Sigell. Will I give it a go? I might if I can find an out-of-date film that I can afford to waste but I'm certainly not going to try it with a roll of Tmax 400. I suppose I could always snip some film from a roll, load into a reloadable container and try it out just out of curiosity.

So were all the boxes in the photo at the top of this post empty? All but one. One seemed a little too heavy and it turned out to have a roll of Verichrome Pan - with an expiry date of 1974 - in it. Coincidentally, that was around the same year I first started taking an interest in photography, going out with my dad's Paxette and a roll of colour slide film in it and putting a yellow filter on the front to see what the results would be like. Duh!

Unfortunately, it's the 620 roll film size and not 120 and I'm not sure if I have a camera hidden away that would be able to use it. There's plenty of information on the internet about using 120 film in 620 cameras but not much the other way round. I'm guessing it will probably fit into a Rolleiflex so I might try it out there.

That's the end of this little exercise of paddling around in a pool of nolstagia. It carries the important lesson that you should never throw anything out without first having a good look at it!


Jim Grey said...

620 film is hard to come by -- it would be a shame not to shoot it in a 620 camera. An old box camera, available for just a small sum, would be the perfect venue for some expired Verichrome Pan.

Dave Jenkins said...

Today's digital pressmen do have it easier -- all three of them. Back in the day, things may have been more difficult, but at least there were jobs for press photograpers!

Greg Brophy said...

A kodak Duaflex for the 620 film, which could be bought for maybe 5 dollars would do it.

Victor Bezrukov said...

actually once press photographers and journalists never worried about how beautiful or artistic their results looks. they also never used dark room - the work was to expose, to send the canister to the office and to run for the next news-shoots !
of course always there is some exclusion.

John Robison said...

Really like to see that old photo stuff. Back when men were men and SLR's were Exakta's! Bit before my photographic history began. My first camera was a Kodak Brownie Bullet, a bakelite box that took 127 film, about 1959 when I was 10 years old. Now I've become much more sophisticated and use a Zeiss Box Tengor.

DavidM said...

What a find!
As far as I know, the difference between 120 and 620 film is the size of the central core, so it should be possible to re-wind it onto a 120 core. It might be wise to hang onto the 620 core in case you win an actual 620 camera and want to give it a try with film. You'd need two, of course, but most second-hand cameras seem to have one left behind in the film chamber.

John Carter said...

We have many 620 cameras in the US. I would try it in the Rollie, my Brownie Hawkeye Flash will take 120 but has to have a 620 spool on the take up end. This works great as you can re-roll C-41 to a 120 spool for processing. And B&W is no problem. Give it a try. I dropped my last found roll 3 stops and it was good at that level: 1974.

Ashley Duncan Brown Williams said...

re-sigell instant developing tank, looks like I have aquired one in a job lot, it appears it requires a kit to develop including a paper reel/leader? there are some diagrams in google images.